Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
1. What Does the art work look like? describe it.
This piece of art work in my opinion looks like a dream. The art work has a certain disoriented charm. It has mainly all dark colors and uses these dark colors to contrast with the light skin pigment of the people in the painting. The painting has a calm erotic nude lady sleeping on a very formal looking couch or day bed. If the picture is read as this ladies dream then it appears as if she were dreaming of death or something of a cult like manner. If it is indeed death she is dreaming of then she is symbolizing that death is very calm and relaxed, for her leg has gone limp as if she is very relaxed as death (the skeleton) is hovering over the foot end of her bed. In the background there are also people flying up in the sky and these people could symbolize the dead rising to a heaven or a god, or even angels attempting to help the dying on there way to a heaven or a god. It also seams as if the people in this dream are in a place of worship and they are all looking up to the skies and praying. The structures around them are very temple like, for they have many statues and engravings about them. There is one lady in close and she is not praying and looks very formal. This lady is looking right at the skeleton which symbolizes death. This lady could symbolize a priest that is conversationalizing with her god or death itself, or this lady could also symbolize a non-believer that only examines the cult or religion and passes judgment. Another major aspect of this painting is that it is all set at night, which only makes the viewer believe more that the painting is set in a dream state because most dreams occur at night when we are asleep.
2. What subject matter does the artist work with? How is the subject matter represented: realistically, abstractly.
Paul Delvaux uses a lot of different subject matters and here is a list of them: mythology, dreams, religion, bourgeois men, death, skeletons, large landscapes with ruins or city views and naked woman who wander expressionlessly. But in this painting he used a dream like atmosphere and a Greek cult like landscape to portray his message. Initially his first works, painted in the early 1920s, mostly consisted of pretty post-impressionist landscapes, but later more into the late 20s (around 1926-1927), Paul Delvaux evolved towards a more simplified style of Expressionism and Symbolism as these styles were seeping into his works. In his own words Paul Delvaux explains “I wanted to find something else, but I did not know exactly what that could be.”. After this metamorphosis Paul Delvaux converted to Expressionism. From 1935 and onward Paul Delvaux mainly focused on surrealistic works of art. This painting is represented in a surrealistic manner. His choice of subject-matter and his personal style attest to his own personality.
3. What kind of technique is used to produce the work? Include the type(s) of media that are used.
Paul Delvaux uses many techniques, but for this painting Venus Asleep Paul Delvaux used very sharp edge images with a lot of dark shadows. He did this painting with oil on a (173 x 200cm) canvas. He conveys his work using political media from his time period and rearranging it to show his feelings of a subject or the reality of a situation. Sometimes he uses unrelated media that he links together to make a point in his own way.
4. Where was the work produced? (GeoGraphic location)
Paul Delvaux is known as a Belgian artist. Paul Delvaux initially studied architecture, but later studied painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. Around 1934 Paul Delvaux withdrew from society, spending a month in the tiny southern Belgian village of Spy filling his many sketch books with lingering fantasies in his mind and childhood memories. From 1951 onwards Paul Delvaux most often worked in Sint-Idesbald (Koksijde). Except in 1952 Paul Delvaux designed murals for the casino of the Kursaal in Ostend and he also did work in a few other places as well. The painting (Venus Asleep) was created in Brussels in 1944.
5. When was the work done? (Dates of the artists life, working life, name of the art period in which the work was done, dates of that period.)
Paul Delvaux was born on the 21st of March 1897 and he died on the 27th of July, in the year of 1994. His childhood and adolescent years were important sources of inspiration for his work, even though he wasnt to serious about his art at this time. The works Paul Delvaux painted in the early 1920s, mostly consisted of pretty post-impressionist landscapes. Paul Delvaux evolved from a impressionist artist to a Expressionism and Symbolism artist around about 1926-1927. The church took offense at Paul Delvauxs paintings and had them removed from the Biennale in Venice in 1954. In 1962 a Delvaux exhibition was held in Ostend at the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1979 when he was still alive the Paul Delvaux Foundation was founded. The painting I have included with my essay (Venus Asleep) was done in Brussels on 1944 during German flying bomb attacks on the city. This period in art history is referred to as modern art. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of this Belgian artist Paul Delvaux, The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium hosted the first major retrospective exhibition of Paul Delvauxs work ever to be held in Belgium. It was held on the 27th of October 1997.
6. Was the art influenced by previous art movements?
Paul Delvaux didnt really have many other art movements of his kind to influence him, because he was kind of adding on to an art movement that had just started. Although he was semi influenced by impressionism, expressionism and surrealism art movements. His childhood and adolescents were very important influences in Paul Delvauxs work. In 1931-1932 Paul Delvaux discovered the Spitzer museum at the fair in Brussels, a pseudo scientific collection of preserved skeletons, fetuses and other macabre elements. The disgusting mystery of it influenced his paintings. A number of years later Paul Delvaux saw work by DeChirico, Dali and Mmagritte at the Minotaure exhibition in the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels. Paul Delvaux took a liken to these artists works and shortly afterwards he developed his own personal style with a magical dimension loose from expressionism. “I was influenced by all those artists I admired, but they did not satisfy me completely,” Paul Delvaux once said.
7. Did this art work influence other movements of art?
Though surrealist influences are evident in the anachronistic, coldly erotic works of Paul Delvaux, he subject matter was entirely his own. I personally think that his works were and still are influencing the surrealistic artists to come after himself.
8. What place in history does this work hold? – a major movement, a minor movement, an isolated movement?
Paul Delvauxs work is a minor movement in art history even though his work has been reflected upon up to now. His work is to isolated to be a major movement and not isolated enough to be an isolated movement. If we were to group Paul Delvaux along with the other artists of his kind and time together, even though they are all a little different in there own way, they would have enough similarities to be grouped into a major movement category.
A theory says that art does not exist alone, or in a vacuum – that it is influenced by events in the world. What was the world like when the art work was done?
When the art works of Paul Delvaux were created the world was either beginning a war, going to war, finishing war or after war. A very little amount of his surrealists works were not war related in some way. On top of these circumstances the work that he enjoyed doing was frowned upon by the church and by society to a great extent. Paul Delvaux was not always accepted by the public.
9. Is any particular social group represented in the art work?
Paul Delvaux doesnt use any distinct social groups in his paintings, however naked, erotic and sometimes helpless woman appear in almost all of his surrealistic works.
10. Was there any type of social or political upheaval occurring during the time period when the art was being produced?
There wasnt really any social upheaval that I can see, but there was a distinct political upheaval. The painting I enclosed was created while German bombers were bombing the city were Paul Delvaux lived, the political power of Germany wanted to take over the world and impose there values upon every one. In this painting you can see the frustration that Paul Delvaux was feeling, as fore he left all the people looking helpless and praying in his painting. The political side of the world does certainly come forth in Paul Delvauxs work.
11. Can you tell any thing about the time period and or the world situation by viewing the art of this period or this artist?
The art of this period depicts very much so the environment around them and the crisis the artists went through. The art works are just like book the tell the reader what happened, except the art works go deeper than books the art works show emotion and emerge the feelings of the artist(s) that actually went through the trauma of this time period.
12. In the same way that art is influenced by the states of the world, various forms of art are influenced by one another. Is there a specific form of music, architecture or literature that, in the same period, is characteristic of the time period? Does it reflect the world in the same way that the visual arts of that period do, if at all? Art reflects the artist as well as the world and the time period.
Music and poetry especially express the artists feelings as his/her art works do. A song can be played to express emotion just as art would only with music your using your ears to input into your brain instead of your eyes. And a poem can also express ones feelings of the world around himself, just by the way the writer combines different words together to create the different emotions he/she wants to express. These other ways are just as effective of expressing your feelings about the world around you as art is, because in any thing feeling is how much work and thought you put into a piece of work, whether its a brush stroke or a word with a deep meaning.
13. What information can you find about the life of the artist(s)?
Paul Delvaux lived in Belgium for most of his life. He went to many Fine Arts Academys. He often left on trips to get away and to sketch memories from his childhood and to put his fantasias into art. He lived to be 97 years of age.
14. What was the social economic position of an artist during the time period being researched?
Paul Delvaux wasnt very high up on the social ladder in his time period, but nor were any other artists that practiced the same form of art as Paul Delvaux. These artists were considered “bad” by the church and were often banned from the churches. Society as a whole also frowned upon these artists, because the y for the most part followed the church. Therefore as that not many people understood these artists or tried to understand them, so not vary many people would buy there works. These artists were often money deprived for this reason and would paint murals and portraits on the corners of downtown streets.
15. What kind of life did the particular artist you are studying live?
Paul Delvaux led a life of much change and exploration of his own mind. He would often take trips to free his mind and to make art of the memories and fantasies of his childhood and personal life. After going through art academies he tried to develop his own style, which he did. He spent a lot of his life observing and recording in his own way what he sees.
16. Was the artist personally involved in any specific political or social movement?
Paul Delvaux wasnt personally involved in political or social events, but he was always indirectly involved in them by portraying there images.
17.Did the artist see his her involvement in art in any particular way? All art has some intent.
The intent in Paul Delvauxs work is that he wanted to show people his way of viewing the world and to put across his feelings about the emotions he felt about the occurring events in his life.
18.What was the artist trying to show through the art which he she created?
a. deal only with abstract, element or compositional aspects of art
In the painting Venus Asleep Paul Delvaux was trying to show a dreamlike composition with an abstract approach towards death. By using a relaxed woman and a skeleton hovering over her, which could symbolize death coming in her sleep. Using these images Paul Delvaux could be conveying the thought of German bombers attacking while the citizens are calm and relaxed, not expecting the bombers, or he could be symbolizing that the enemy is trying to be a friend to the woman while deep inside the enemy want whats not best for the woman.
b. reflect the times which the artist lived?
As I explained in Question “a” this painting was created when the Germans were bombing the Belgium city. So Paul Delvaux was probably pretty emotional at the time of the paintings creation and these emotions are showing through in this painting.
c. reflect his personal view of the world?
Well, I cant really say what Paul Delvauxs personal view is with out asking him myself, but judging by his artwork Id say his personal view of the world comes out in his paintings because he most always uses dark pastel colors in his paintings for the landscapes and backgrounds, which contrast greatly with the bright skin color of the people in his paintings. I think this choice of colors symbolizes how dark the world really is when people are on it to contrast with it and exploit it.
d. reflect some emotional aspect of him herself or others?
This painting Venus Asleep has many emotional parts that go deep within this painting and expose the true quality of the images of war and unfair death.
19. What do you see in the art work produced during this period or by this artist? What message comes across? (the message need not be sentimental or political – it may be only visual.)
In the works and mostly the painting Venus Asleep by this artist I see a deep message of pain and uncertainty that came from a war combined with an already restless soul that needs attention not violence. The people in the background to me symbolize the unhappiness of many people and the dark structures symbolize a highly growing technology of old theorys and questions. To me this painting shows me the end of the beginning of a pain that Paul Delvaux once suffered.
20. Is the art work of the time or of the artist successful? Does it do what it is set out to do? Does it convey the message that it intended?
I feel that this piece of art from its time period does what it is set out to do. It conveys the message in so many different ways so that it can be interpreted as the viewer feeling the pain of a past event. I think the artist is successful in what he set out in achieving, because now over 70 years later were still talking about this painting.
21. Do you like the artwork of your research topic? Explain.
Yes, I like the art work of my research topic, because it opens a window into something I cant normally see.
“One should forget that a painting is a painting – that is to say, another reality”Paul Delvaux
Surrealist Painting 1975
TimeApril 21, 1997 VOL, 149 NO.6
(A Singular Path)- Julie K.L. DAM
(Retrospective Delvaux Paul 1997 in Brussels, Belgium)
(PMMK Jubilee- Delvaux(Antheit 1897- Veurne1994)Info)
EXPO Delvaux 1897-1994
Royalmuseums of fine arts belgium
address 9, Ruedu musee, 1000 Brussels